August 4, 2009 10:36:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Leaders of the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum plan to hold a celebration of the area''s aviation history and contributions to World War II.
The event will take place at the museum on or around May 8, 2010, which will be the 65th anniversary of Victory in Europe, or V-E Day.
Besides displaying artifacts, event organizers hope to have local luminaries speak to the crowd, show pre-recorded oral histories, play a video on the invasion of Normandy, encourage roundtable discussions, give aviation industry tours around the county and perhaps stage a fly-in.
Joan Wilson, chair of the Heritage Museum''s board of trustees, informed the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors about the celebration Monday. She said the museum had submitted a grant proposal for $2,700 from the Greater Starkville Development Partnership''s Convention and Visitors Bureau in order to fund the project.
Starkville and Oktibbeha County residents who were involved in local aviation developments are quickly getting older and disappearing, Wilson explained later. "We feel like this is the time to do it," she said.
Organizers began kicking around ideas for the celebration early this year. They were originally planning to hold the event June 6 but realized they would need more time.
The celebration is the latest tribute to a chapter in local history in the county. Oktibbeha County recently honored Starkville-born Negro League baseball player James "Cool Papa" Bell, and promoted the inception of tee ball in the city.
The aviation history celebration will highlight several underreported or just forgotten true stories.
"It''s a little-known fact that there was a vast military training program that was conducted right here in the Starkville area in World War II, and 3,300 military students were trained at Oktibbeha Airport operated by the Starkville Flying Service and M.S. Camp as the owner," said Terry Camp, referring to his father.
Bill Poe, a volunteer at the museum, said he has a possible slogan for Starkville in mind: the aviation research center of Mississippi. "It is no question that it is the aviation research center of the state," Poe said, citing the local presence of companies such as Stark Aerospace and American Eurocopter, which he traced back to Starkville''s aviation history.
Poe said he would not be opposed to the establishment of an annual event in honor of the local aviation history. He has suggested holding an annual air show.